What is a Landscape?
Gets us to the next section, I guess, is what is a landscape? And for you, you've made a bit of a transition to this particular photograph.
Which you love, Peter, I know.
This is not my favorite of your photos to Nina. (Peter laughs)
Look, I started out like most people thinking landscapes mesmerized by color, mesmerized by that amazing sunrise or sunset. In fact, this is the very image I was using in that floating concrete to provide the warmth. So, yeah, this is where I started with my landscapes. I started to be on holiday with the family and think, "Wow, that's beautiful. I'll get that shot."
So, you then moved on to sheep? You're getting closer to the landscape now.
This is a reminder of the travel type things. I started to do the two minute, not two minute, I did a two week trip across Australia from the East to West, and along the way started to explore things, started to see things that I wanted to capture that weren't necessarily in the norm. So, standing by the side...
of the road and, you know, sometimes when you stop on a road trip, and you get out the car for five minutes, because you need to get out of the car for five minutes, in a quiet place. And I saw these trees and I was photographing the trees, and I heard the sheep. And maybe that's the beginning. That was a portrait of sheep.
And moving from sheep to ...
Again, this whole simplicity, that simple, minimal elements placed in a frame, in a very designed and deliberate way. For me, it created something quite peaceful but quite strong.
So, the use of white Very, very dominant in there--
With a minimal color. Again, minimal color, minimal elements, the high key effect, and also the placement. I'm gonna give away a little bit of a secret here. The bird on the right, the single white one, which is opposed to the other four, was actually slightly further away. And in order to just add a bit more connection, I actually brought it a bit closer to help tell the story.
Yeah, why not?
I moved into commercial work, and again, all the way through there was this simplicity of shape. You know, minimal elements put together in a way that had a deliberate design in order to enhance the impact of the light.
So, how did color come in?
This one I was photographing was actually almost a throw away shot. I'd gone for break. I'd been shooting down in the southwest, went to a little local place called Greens--
That's southwest of Australia.
Southwest of ... (Peter laughs) Thank you, Peter. Southwest from here anyway.
Yeah, that's true.
And a place called Greens Pool. And there were three boys playing in the water, and as I started to come up the steps to leave, I looked down and I just saw the innocence of youth. That's basically what it was about. So, when I was working on the picture, it just needed something, and I thought, what are kids about? I just played around and Photoshop a bit, and created something that was about cartoony effect, the vivaciousness of coloring in, all these things that I associated with my childhood, centered around these three boys playing with a ball. Then I started to move into things that others would do, go down to the river on a night. This is the city of Perth, my home city. And just going down and getting the sort of landscapes that other people would get. And I was excited by it. I'd show a few people that would be excited. But Peter, I did notice there was a lot of other people with shots like this. In fact, when you'd go down and shoot it there would be 50 people lined up taking the shot.
So, when we look at some of our earlier awards, I guess it's a matter of stepping out and being a little bit different. I think what was shown was that our starting point it's quite different but not dissimilar to what a lot of our audience and viewers will have had as well. And so, it's a matter of making a start. And I guess it comes back to, if you wanted to go out and create and award image, that's hard. All you can really do is go out and create your best images, and then gradually hope it moves up that way.
At the same time, I think awards can help hone and focus your point of difference. They help you develop your style because you're trying something different in order to be noticed.
Well, what have I learnt when I won the Australian Professional Photographer of the Year Award for the first time is that there's nothing new in photography but it can be new for you. So, this photograph that you can see here it was shot in Namibia. And the surroundings were, you know, we'd taken some photos like this in the early morning. It was in the days of film. And you had the wonderful light, and I was very happy with that. But the photograph that actually got me the award was this one cause it's different. It's black and white. I bleached the little tree on the bottom left. And a couple of months after I'd received the award, a friend of mine who'd been on the trip with me sent me magazine, a U.K. magazine to Australia. And he said, "Hi, Peter. Thought you'd be interested in this photograph, please turn to page 50. And he even put a little yellow thing on page 50 in case (Tony laughs) I couldn't count the numbers. And when I opened it up, there was that same photograph a little bit wider but just shot as a straight black and white without any of the embellishments of the technique. And so, what I thought was a completely original composition had been seen by another photographer either before or right at the same sort of time. So, there's nothing new in photography but it can be new for you. And I guess that's all that we can really aspire to these days.
I suppose one of the challenges we have is to take something that we know may have been shot before, and you hear about places and people are wanting to go there to get photos. One of the challenges is can you bring a different spin to it?
Well, this is one of your early award winnings.
And this is a composite
image which was done before Photoshop.
That's right. And most people look at this, and I remember being in a talk in England and this was before Photoshop. And sort of they did a little bit of an A/V at the beginning. And this image came up, and I was standing behind the back row. They hadn't introduced me. So, no one knew who I was. And I heard two guys and this picture was sitting there, and someone said, "Oh, that's that new Photoshop."
And I walked up and they introduced me, and I walked up and I said, (claps) "So, I'm gonna start off by talking about his picture. And I don't own a computer. I don't have Photoshop. Don't know how to use it. And this was all done with traditional techniques. Can anyone tell me how?" And the two guys at the back were looking at each other and I thought, (Peter laughs) "Yep, that was a good start." So, this was using traditional--
Alienating your audience? (laughter)
Can you tell me how I did it? No Photoshop. So, we're done using traditional techniques. So, here's what happened. You need, first of all, a dark room. Second of all, you need to be without distraction. And most important, you need a bottle of wine. So, I was sitting there with a bottle of wine that late night and I had two projectors, and I was exploring this technique where our projected one image onto a polystyrene pillar in the shape of a Roman column. And on the other column, on the other projector, I would put something like maybe a sky shot or something, just to throw some sort of texture into it. Then I set my camera on a tripod. I was using Velvia which is a very low ISO which allowed me to get about a two second exposure at F maximum. I forget the camera at the time. And then I would have a little dodging tool and a little burning tool if I needed it, and I would hit the trigger, the timer would go off. I'd have two seconds to go like that to blend the two images. There's the polystyrene foam. And then I'd wait 48 hours cause I'd have to get up the next morning early, take it into the lab. Let them process the tranny, get it back, look at it, and see whether it worked. And this image was on the back of a magazine and so on. But it goes to show that the most important thing is the idea. And this was before computers, and everything in this image was created with traditional photographic technique.
So, I have a similar sort of experience with this particular photograph, the Miracoli one, where I showed it to a couple of trusted friends and they basically said, "Peter, give up. That's not photography." (Tony laughs) So, I'd started off with a composite. Just showing you how Miracoli was produced. So, it's three photographs. And then I painted a few bits in. Added a new sky. And then enhanced the, my young daughter at the bottom there, and we ended up with the final result. And I had a series which they got Illustrated Photography of the Year, I think it was. And other shot here, for instance, which is Pontecuti. And I always think of the little girl running home because her Italian mother is up there and she's got the pastor already on the table. She's saying, "Where is my daughter? She's late." And the daughter knows she's in trouble, and she's running along at a million miles an hour. So, that was a sort of a thought that I had. Here we've got the monks and nuns of Assisi. They've got a conversation which is all about stopping photographers from taking photos in that church. Inside that church is the most amazing colors and paintwork, but you're not aloud to take photos. But they did still slides and DVDs, and that was probably what they were trying to do is get their market up. So, they're having a little conversation down the back. Now, that just shows you the weird and wacky ideas. But the photographers that I showed it to, just said, "Pete, not in the ballpark." Whereas the judges thought differently, and I was lucky enough to be, I suppose, rewarded for that. And so these series of images were all about finding my voice. Your voice was a little bit in many ways similar. I mean, talk to me about this image which isn't multiple exposures like I've done, but again, coming back to your point of--
Again, again, simplicity. And again, often when I travel from the states back to Aus, you have a stay over in places like L.A. for maybe 12, 14 hours. And I'm kind of someone who'd rather go walk along the beach than go past Rodeo Drive. So, I went down there and I'm walking along and I saw this gentleman coming across the sand. And I connected with it just like that. I looked at him I thought, "I know who you are." And I did know who he was. And I'm thinking, "That feels like me sometimes." The world's on my shoulders. I've got all this weight on my shoulders. I love the way that he was coming across the sand, and it was just this trudge, this trudging along. Now, he didn't look up. If he looked up, I would have gone to say hello and ask his permission. But he never looked up. I never saw his face. There was just something about it that I had to capture. We said right up front, it's what we do. Have to have my camera at hip level, and basically, just focused it on about the distance I have him on the other side when I wanted the shot. Got it pretty focused as we walked along just went "Click, click, click." Three frames. The one that I liked the most was the one where he was further into the frame because the footprints behind told this story of where he's come from. The weight on his shoulders, the gesture of his back, everything about it was a simply message. Most people look at this picture and can relate to it. The desaturation was about the lack of color--
So, here you've actually saturated the image. You're going the other way.
Yeah, Pete, you were standing next to me when I took this.
Yeah, I know.
You disagreed with me. You said, "No, you're not gonna get the shot from there." And you went down the hill, and I got the shot. (Peter sighs)
Oh, just one of the many occasions where I've missed out once again. Oh, well. (Peter laughs) _ So, starting points, repetition, color, everything you look at, and if you look at this frame and you go to the next one which was shot ten years later or so on Lord Howe Island, you know the use of whether you use color or not changes the way the viewer is going to interpret the picture. It changes the feeling of the image, and all of these things contribute to your ability as an author, as a visual author to tell your story your way.
So, we've got time for you now to talk to how you've more or less done this a little bit. I'm sorry but--
Yeah, well, this is an opportunity to break it up.
I talked about the floating concrete image, and when you look at that
A starting point.
that's what I started with. That's where I was standing. And there's nothing there. All right? But when I'm standing there you can see a little bit of the rain just down here. Down here. So, I'm standing there. It's cold. You can imagine standing in the corner of this room like that. And I'm just standing there as a photographer. Everyone's left the site except the foreman. He said I could hand around a little bit cause I felt like there was a mood but I didn't know what it was. I'm standing looking, looking, looking. And I'm thinking, "God, that's just crazy." Cause it looks ... Maybe it was the rain, Peter. Maybe it was the water around me. I'm thinking, "It looks like water." And that just looks like it's floating. And if we skip to the next step ...
So, the next element.
This is sitting on the back of the boat. And you know, isn't it funny I said in the story you couldn't see the horizon in the sky? Isnt's that, that's my memory? Isn't that amazing? That was my memory. But this is maybe it was out further when we were coming in. This was the water path that I was looking at and it was following us. And it just wasn't shifting, and it's like it looked solid. It's like we're dragging it with the boat. And it was that moment that I made a connection back to the unfinished story of concrete. And then if you go into the next picture, we've seen that. That was the dawn of a day. So, when I was putting together the concrete story, I had the original floating concrete. And I had the ripples. Put them in but I thought, "This is the dawn of something. This is the birth of concrete. I need something that talks about dawn." So, that's why that color came in. And you can see this. Now, the technique was quite simple. Can you just flip back for me, Pete?
Yep, I think I can.
To the water. That's it. So, with this I just took this section here. This is going back. This was done ten years ago. And go back into here, and then I put it on. I flipped it. I transformed it. So, in transform I stretched it across to fit exactly in this square so the perspective was correct. Then I blended it on tone. Cause I didn't want to have the colors in there, I just wanted the tonal differences. And then overlaid the color and then blended that on color. And that's how I got that shot.
Okay. Yeah, it's fantastic shot. I love that.
Now, Pete, you've got some good ones. I like your iceberg shot. The one that ended up with ...
The iceberg that ended up, well, Apple picked it up for a television commercial at one stage. And they'd seen the photograph that looked like this on the website. And they said, "We want to raw file." Because most advertising agencies don't trust photographers to do their own post-production. Maybe I'm making a broad, sweeping statement. But a lot didn't. And they said, "Send us the raw file." So, I sent them the raw file, and that's what it looked like. And when they actually used the shot, well they went back to my one. (Tony laughs) So, that was okay. And I think this is a good example is that there's not a huge difference between the two shots. But it's just a matter of, I guess, degree. If you go back to the final one, I've brought out that iceberg because that's what's important. And I've got all the texture in the iceberg which, it's there in that file, but you just can't see it.
So, Peter, I'm gonna throw one at you that you're not ready for. So, I'm a camera manufacturer, and I'm sitting here and you show me the second shot. And your telling me as a camera manufacturer that the camera can't capture the color. Cause why doesn't it show it?
It has captured the color.
But why doesn't it show it?
Why doesn't it show it? I don't know.
You know. It's a challenging one, isn't it? Because this is the thing, the information is actually there. Cause we're not making it up. We're bringing it out.
Well, the camera manufacturers would disagree with us.
They'll say that that's what I really saw. And it was all of the coffees and teas and Bonoxes that I'd had the night before that made me see it differently.
So, here we go. Yesterday, I walked in to CreativeLive. This amazing, buzzing place full of so many amazing, positive people. This is truly a fantastic place. You guys enjoyed yourself here? So, I've walked in, and I had a green jacket on. And the first person come up to me, I think it was Heather actually, she came up and she said, "Oh, I love the color of that blue jacket." Or was it you, Kenna? It was Kenna. She said, "I love the blue in that jacket." And I was nearly going to say something. I thought, "Why does everyone call my green jacket blue?" (Peter laughs) So, what's real?
That's my question.
You know like,
you say that's what we saw. The camera manufacturer says that's what we saw.
Yeah. I mean, I can remember going around that iceberg, and looking down, and thinking, "Wow, how can I ever the blues in that ice onto a print?" Because people often come up to me and say, "Wow, the blues weren't really like that, were they?" And I said, "No." They said, "Yeah, I knew you enhanced it." I said, "No, no. The blues were much stronger than I'm able to show you."